Ready for the Next Century
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FINE ART CONNOISSEUR, August 2012-- In a field renowned for constant change, M.S. Rau Antiques is truly a standout. Located at the same address in New Orleans's French Quarter since it was founded 100 years ago, "Rau" has many reasons to celebrate. Third-generation owner Bill Rau observes, "Collecting has been the DNA of the Rau family, and I expect that M.S. Rau Antiques will be around for another 100 years in the same location."
In March, the firm began its 2012 centennial celebrations with a ribbon-cutting and the reading of a proclamation from New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu, as well as the launch of the Rau for Art Foundation, which has awarded scholarships to three talented art students enrolled in local high schools. (The finalists' artworks were also exhibited at the gallery, surely a thrill for them and their families.)
Within Rau's sprawling, two story building, collectors can always find a huge range of European and American paintings, sculptures, drawings, prints, furniture, ceramics, metalwork, jewelry, collectibles, and memorabilia, often with royal or Gilded Age pedigrees. Although many periods are covered, Rau has particular expertise in European art from the 18th and 19th centuries.
Of course it is difficult to choose just one, but Bill Rau says the painting he most enjoyed handling was a luminous scene of Marrakech, complete with snow-capped Allas Mountains in the distance, painted by Winston Churchill and given by him personally to Franklin Delano Roosevelt as a memento of their meeting there during World War II. Although he is happy to have sold it to a celebrity collector, Rau says he misses the picture; he feels the same way about a monumental sideboard depicting the Ballad of Chevy Chase, carved in Newcastle, England, by Gerard Robinson in 1857-1863. This gigantic piece o furniture made quite an impression during its visits to various fairs nationwide, and it now lives happily in a collector's home.
As always, Bill Rau remains on the lookout for masterworks long off the market, but he is paying special attention this year to the imminent publication of his new book on 19th-century European paintings. Intended to introduce readers to a breadth of movements and genres such as the Barbizon School, Pre-Raphaelitism, Impressionism and views of Venice, the book will be available for purchase not only at the gallery, but also online. (Readers of Fine Art Connoisseur got a sneak peek of the book in April 2011, when Bill Rau's chapter on cardinal paintings appeared in these pages.)
Also ahead is a major exhibition, Impressionism: Influences and Impact, scheduled for November 12-December 31, and of course the gallery's customary appearances at fairs nationwide. Look for Rau at the Aspen Antiques and Fine Arts Fair (July 6-15), Baltimore Summer Antiques Show (August 23-26), Antiques and Art at the Armory (September 20-24), or Dallas International Art, Antique & Jewelry Show (November 8-12). And when you see them there, be sure to wish them happy birthday.